In a Republican primary debate in Milwaukee, Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old former biotech executive and political newcomer, made a memorable statement that echoed Barack Obama’s famous line from his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. Ramaswamy quipped, “Who the heck is this skinny guy with a funny last name and what the heck is he doing in the middle of this debate stage?” This reference caught the attention of his rivals, including former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who compared Ramaswamy to Obama and called him an amateur. Ramaswamy’s decision to invoke a two-term Democratic president on a Republican stage was unconventional, considering his alignment with Donald Trump’s style and rhetoric on issues like climate change and Ukraine. Nevertheless, this move garnered attention and made Ramaswamy the candidate everyone was talking about after the debate.
Ramaswamy’s remark during the debate not only captured the curiosity of viewers but also highlighted the parallels between his own situation and Obama’s. The reference to Obama’s famous quote about being a skinny kid with a funny name who believed in America resonated with Ramaswamy’s own position as a lesser-known candidate with an unfamiliar name. While Ramaswamy’s remark may have seemed out of place on a stage filled with Republicans, it successfully grabbed attention and became a topic of discussion. In contrast to Obama’s hopeful and inclusive message, Ramaswamy’s controversial stances on climate change and Ukraine mirrored Trump’s strategy of taking shocking positions to generate attention and make himself the center of discussion.
By invoking Obama’s quote and attracting attention to himself, Ramaswamy achieved his goal of standing out in a crowded field of Republican candidates. His unconventional approach, reminiscent of Trump’s tactics, seemed to pay off, as he became the candidate who dominated post-debate conversations. Ramaswamy’s decision to reference a Democratic president in a Republican debate may have raised eyebrows, but it effectively brought him into the spotlight and demonstrated his ability to captivate an audience.